How To Write A Novel

glass-of-wineIt’s often said that everybody has a book inside them. Maybe, but it’s getting it out that’s the hard part! Most people have no idea how to write a novel and may go through their lives wishing they could just get that story down on paper. In this post I’m going to try to help you get started.

So you want to know how to write a novel? The first step is honesty. Ask yourself do you really want to write a novel. Or do you just want to have written a novel? Those are two entirely different goals and many who set to work accomplishing the former wind up being the latter. Writing a novel is a big commitment and you will save yourself a lot of time and heartache by being completely honest with yourself. But before you answer that question, you need to learn some surprising secrets about just how much work it really takes to write a novel.

How to Write a Novel in a Genre

What is a genre novel? Romance. Steampunk. Mystery. Detective story. Horror. Science fiction. Those categories can just as easily describe a mainstream novel that is not considered a genre novel, hower. What’s the difference? That’s where the pros and cons of genre fiction comes into play. The only problem is that the things considered a pro or a con will vary from writer to writer.

For instance, a true genre novel is typically anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 words less than a mainstream novel. In order for your novel to maintain its genre status, you will also be expected to conform to certain expectations: steampunk should be set around or before the turn of the 20th century, the detective always catches the murderer and historical fiction has longer sentences than adventure novels.

If you are the type of person who believe rules provide order to life and prefers the tight mechanics of plot to the mercurial nature of the human character, you would probably do well to write a genre novel. If you are a long-winded rebel who loves flaunting rules, not so much.

Writing for Ebook Publishing

At the other end of the spectrum from genre novels are the unlimited possibilities held out by self-publishing your novel in ebook form. Can you publish a genre novel as an ebook? Of course. But you can also publish a wildly experimental novel that plays with genre conventions, a 200,000 word stream-of-consciousness peek inside the mind of a madman or a novel that simply tells a story that may only mean something to you.

The ebook represents the true democratization of novel writing. One of the biggest and most frustrating obstacles to trying to write a novel for the first time in the past was the inevitable pressure to write something commercial enough to get published. Well, thanks to ebooks, every novel can now be published, no matter how uncommercial. So for the first time in history, the advice given to those who ask how to write a novel really is all about writing the novel you want. Not what you think a publisher will buy or an agent can sell.

Planning a Novel

The worst thing you can do if you have never written a novel is to seek advice on how to plan it. The danger is that you will find advice on outlining a novel that you think you must follow. Some writers construct complicated outlines that plan everything in advance and can wind up being half as long as the novel itself. Others put together a few scraps of notes and trust their muse do the rest.

How much planning goes into writing a novel is dependent not upon the type of novel, but the type of person you are. If you would benefit from having a game plan to follow, then by all means write an outline for a 50,000 word romance novel. Just don’t feel restricted to using that rigid “A.1.a.” approach to outlining you were taught in school. If an obsession with a theme or a group of characters is what drives you write a novel, but you’re a little fuzzy on plot and incident, then trust your instinct to invisibly guide you as you write even if you’re never sure what’s going to happen next.

How to Write the Mid Section of Your Novel

girl at computerNo doubt about it: getting those first 50 pages of a novel written is the most difficult part for probably 99% of writers. Which may be why so many people have 20 or 30 pages of an unfinished manuscript tucked somewhere inside a desk. At least with the beginning, however, you are hyped up by the excitement of fascinating characters or an inventive plot or a unique spin on something that’s been done before.

The problem with writing the middle of your novel should never be one of boredom. If you are too bored to slog through the middle, you need to drop it and go back to the spot where you got off track. No, the problem with writing the middle of a novel is that when you first sat down to write those opening 50 pages you probably had a pretty clear idea of how your story was going to end.

What you didn’t know back then was that a character was going to evolve in a way you didn’t expect. Or that an entirely new character introduced on page 55 was going to take over your story and lead it off in a direction you never intended. Or that a scene so vivid and exciting caused you to leap out of bed in the middle of the night in order to get it down and now you have to figure out a way to get your characters out of that predicament, but the solution just isn’t coming.

The point? You need to prepare yourself now for the almost guaranteed reality that between page 1 and some point in the middle of the novel, your story is going to undergo a significant change that is going to force you to either change your ending or to nearly pull your hair out in frustration from trying to figure out how to keep what you’ve got and still get to the end you always envisioned.

The First Draft of Your Novel

Remember those surprising secrets you were promised at the beginning of this article? Well, one of the most closely guarded secrets of the process is the heartwarming calculations required to cement belief in yourself that you can complete a first draft and obtain the fortitude to get it done. According to Amazon.com’s Text Stats feature, the precise median word count for novels is exactly 64,531 words. The average page of a novel runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 words. If you set the goal of writing one page of your novel every single day for a year instead of setting the goal of writing a novel, at the end of the year you will have written a 365 page first draft of a novel containing more than 90,000 words.

How to Write the Second Draft

The second draft is not just a matter of polishing the first draft. Most writers will put away the novel for a month at least after finishing the first draft, and not even look at it. Then the second draft will be a complete rewrite. It’s quicker than the first and you can keep some scenes, but there will be big changes too. You might cut out some characters or introduce new ones, for example.

Want to know the most important thing you can learn about how to write a novel? Save a copy of your first draft and use any means applicable to prevent it from being edited. Why? Because those changes you make with your second draft may not turn out to be quite what you desired. And this way you will always be able to go right back to the original starting point. It may not sound like important advice. But that’s only because you haven’t written a novel yet.

One thing that can really help you write that first novel is to become a member of a writing group or take a creative writing class. You’ll usually find that the group is mixed in ability from beginners to those who have finished and perhaps published fiction before, so you shouldn’t feel outclassed. You’ll need to have written something for the other members to comment on, but it doesn’t have to be finished. So take a look online or ask in your local library about writing classes and groups, focusing especially on how to write a novel.

How To Write An Ebook – Choosing The Genre

columbo-man-thinkingLooking for information on how to write an ebook? Perhaps the best starting point for writing an ebook (or indeed an old fashioned hard copy one) is choosing a genre for the book.

Some people believe that they could write about anything they set their mind to. In that case it really would not matter what they wrote about, or indeed how they wrote about it. But writers that can turn their hand to anything, and equally enjoy writing it all, are few and far between.

Likely, they are the sort of authors that read a couple of pages on a topic and then decide to write an exceedingly long tome on the subject almost from scratch. Very few people put the required effort and thought into completing jobs they are not enjoying, or actually interested in. When caught in that scenario most of us get the job done without putting any of our heart and soul into it.

Being a good writer does not automatically mean that you could, or indeed should write about anything, seemingly chosen on a completely random basis. When it comes to it in the publishing and writing profession it is usually best to write in the genre, or genres that you like the most.

Of course those of us with a broader spectrum of interests have a wider range of writing genre to pick from. Generally though it makes more sense to select one genre, and stick to writing in that style, for a certain type of audience until you find your way as an author.

So if you enjoy reading romantic fiction, or writing about World War II battleships have a go at writing about those things. A commonly given tip when it comes to picking the genre to write within, is to write about the things you to read about. Or if you like to read about a wide variety of topics then select the subject you enjoy reading the most.

The logic behind such an approach is a really simple one, the more you have read about something the easier it is to write about. You know what you are writing, and it will be easier to write with a more natural flow of things. Plus you should be writing for an audience with similar tastes to your own.

If you are not entirely sure what kind of genre your work falls into then there will be publishers out there who know the best genre to sell your book under. At the writing stage you do not need to concern yourself with working out the marketing strategies for your opus.

With the internet writers no longer have to spend hour after hour in libraries carrying out research for their books, well not unless they like to do so. Internet searches will soon find information for your book, whatever genre you finally decide to write within. Research makes books more believable to their audiences, especially non-fiction ones.

Even fiction books are better if you can make the details as realistic as possible. Attention to detail can make your readers believe that they are in the place and time that your book is set in. Authors have found that writing about a subject they already have an expertise on is a means to complete books with hardly in research at all. Accuracy is not as important in fiction as it is in non-fiction, unless you are writing about actual historical events.

Do not worry too much about choosing between writing fiction and non-fiction, just write on whatever you feel most comfortable with. Some established authors made their name for example by writing Cold War thrillers yet interspersed them with books on cookery, and photography. So the secret to how to write an ebook, in summary, is just to go out there and write about something that you enjoy.

How To Find A Publisher

In other articles we talk about self publishing, but today we’re going to look at how to find a publisher in the traditional sense – a publisher who will pay you royalties and bring out your book in paper and hard covers.

Fiction writing is an extremely competitive market if you take the traditional route. The advantage is that the publisher will do a lot for you – printing, distribution, publicity – they may want some input on that last one, but on the first two, they have access to sources and methods that you as an individual simply don’t. Except for a little tweeting or the odd appearance in a book store, you just have to receive the royalty checks and write your next book.

The downside of course is that it’s not easy to get a publisher to even read your book, let alone sign you up. They make most of their money from repeat books by authors who are already successful. Therefore, they’re also going to be spending most of their time liaising with those authors. They don’t have time to wade through all of the submissions they receive, or even to read the snopsis, in most cases.

Start With An Agent

Woman readingSo what to do? The answer is – start by finding yourself an agent. Once you do that, the question of how to find a publisher is placed firmly in the agent’s hands. They have access to publishers, often knowing them personally; and since an agent only makes money if your book is published (they get a percentage of your royalties) the publisher knows that the agent wouldn’t be wasting his or her time trying to sell your book unless they thought it would be profitable. So agents act as a kind of free professional reader, for the publishers.

In fact, the majority of traditional publishers now won’t even consider a book if it comes to them direct from the author. They’ll only look at books arriving in their inbox with an agent’s recommendation.

Your Manuscript

The result, of course, is that finding an agent is now the big question, instead of how to find a publisher. And the same rules applied that always did – the main one being, find out what they want and give it to them.

This means several things. First, it means don’t send your 1000-page history of ancient China to an agent that specializes in children’s picture books – an extreme example, but you see what we mean. You can find out about agents’ specialties from Writers Market (or the Writers and Artists Yearbook in the UK). Or look at the websites of some authors who write books like yours – they’ll often list their agent on the contact page. If not, they might thank them in the acknowledgements inside the book itself.

Second, submit your manuscript in whatever form they want. Some will want an email with a one-page synopsis and the first 30 pages; others will want a 200-word outline in an email and nothing else; etc. Whatever it is, give it to them. Yes, it means you may have to write your synopsis several times to fit the different requirements, but it’s worthwhile.

And while we on the subject of synopses or plot summaries, remember – this is the whole plot. Including the ending. You’re not writing a teaser blurb here – the agent needs to know how the book ends.

If you are not the best at spelling or grammar, consider having your book professionally edited before you submit it. At least have a couple of people read it who are good proofreaders. And watch out for spelling errors in your covering email, too. That’s the kind of thing that will make an agent click away without reading any more.

Try to sound enthusiastic about your book without writing a whole sales pitch for it. For example, tell them (briefly) why the subject excited you in the first place, and maybe what kind of readers will like it.

The Next Step

If you succeed in getting an agent, congratulations. You have taken an important first step in getting your book published. Keep in mind, however, that there are no guarantees. Despite their best efforts, your agent may not succeed in finding a publisher for you.

The best thing to do is leave it in their hands. Don’t waste time fantasizing or checking your email 100 times a day. Forget about that book for right now – and start on the next!

Best Self Publishing Platform: Why Kindle?

Author

The best thing to do when you have something to say is to find a way to get it out in the front of people where they can see it. One of the best ways to do this is to use Kindle, which many authors will tell you is the best self publishing platform today. This is a popular option that is becoming a top resource for authors when they have a book or novel to get out to readers.

One of the main reasons this is a popular choice for authors is a book is easy to set up. You may find an assortment of options that are available for self-publishing. However, some options can be much harder than others due to complicated steps or requirements that are hard to meet. This often means you might waste more time than necessary only to get discouraged and decide to give up. You will not likely have issues occur that prevent you from getting a book published when using Kindle.

Kindle is easy to use as the platform will walk you through each step of the process. One thing that can be helpful is to use guides that are provided that will help you through each step of the process. The use of helpful information means you will not be on your own when publishing a book. There are an assortment of guides you can use for the actual writing of a book to make sure all the formatting is correct before uploading.

Ease of use is only one of the reasons why Kindle is a popular choice for authors. The other reason it is the entire process is free and will not cost you a dime. If you have seen other publishing options online, then a wide range of costs is not uncommon.

Self-publishing on Kindle is a great option for you to find success as an author. The costs for other self-publishing options that are online can be shocking. Kindle is completely free as there are no upfront costs. There will be no need to use any other service that will charge a fee to publish a book for sale online when using the Kindle platform.

However, they do take a percentage of sales. That percentage changes according to your sale price.

After formatting, the time to get a book uploaded to Kindle is about five minutes. New books will be live and ready for purchase in about 12 hours.

One thing to keep in mind about publishing on Kindle is getting noticed by big-name publishers. There are some authors who have been offered a sizable book deal.

Authors will benefit from the global reach of Kindle. A published book can reach around the world in a few hours. This platform should exceed the expectations of authors as they can find success when they are included in the Lending Library. A typical author can make up to a 70 percent commission or a royalty on purchased books in select countries. This is typically more than other online publishers.

Authors will not be alone when pursuing publishing endeavors. Kindle is set up with a forum available for authors who have published books on the best self publishing platform. This is a great place to share information and to have a sense of community.